Create Smart Playlists in iTunes to Find Forgotten Tracks

I’m a big fan of discovering new music. I really miss my XM radio that I had for years in the mid-00’s. But recently I realized that my own music collection – compiled from plenty of iTunes purchases, Amazon.com purchases, and mostly from my historic grunge rock CD collection – was full of tunes that I’d neglected. Okay, it’s true, most albums have a ton of junk in them, but every now and then a deep track pops up that is totally fresh to the ears and really makes my day: “Holy crap, that’s a great song that I’ve owned for like 15 years!”

So, I started playing around with iTunes’ Smart Playlists, and I wanted to share a couple that I’ve built. I think they’re handy, and a great way to discover tracks lurking in your collection.

The two Smart playlists that I’ve created are Never Played and Occasionally Played. Setting up Smart playlists in iTunes is pretty easy. You can create new ones by clicking File > New Smart Playlist…, but I like to keep things easy, so I just right clicked on “Top 25 Most Played” and selected “Duplicate”.

Next step is to rename the playlist; just single-click the selected box, and you can edit the name. Like I said, I created 2 playlists, but you can create as many as you’d like.

My Never Played playlist is straightforward: Find songs that according to iTunes have a Plays count of 0. Add to that a couple more options… I limited the track count size to 250 so that it’s manageable on my iPhone (I try to keep some room open on it so I can take copious amounts of pictures), and select them at random. I also enabled Live updating, which is pretty cool. As the track gets played, it gets pushed off the list (since it now has a count of 1). This means that basically I’m discovering totally fresh music from my collection (which, as far as I can tell includes a couple thousand never-played tracks). Of course, most of those are from my CD collection, which of course have been played; but just not since I ripped them on to my iTunes account.

The Occasionally Played playlist is setup really similarly. I wanted to find music that I enjoy, but maybe don’t hear as frequently as I’d want. This is like finding a “Flashback Lunch” channel on my iTunes account. All the settings are the same, except I used a greater than… less than… conditional to constrain the results. In this case, tracks that I’ve played more than 5 times (presumably because I liked them) but less than 20 times. If something gets played over 20 times, then it means I’m probably already seeking out that track anyways.

Of course, this process requires that you’re stuck with cases of CD’s that have followed you from house to house over the last 20 years – and that you actually took the time to sit in front of your computer for a few stretches, loading discs and watching them fill your hard drives. There was a Lord of the Rings marathon on or something… 😉